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Dwindling hopes of Palestinian reconciliation

An alleged Hamas prison in the West Bank deals the latest blow to reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
Last modified: 25 Sep 2012 18:24
Fatah and Hamas have reached several reconciliation deals but rivalry remains [EPA]

A 35 square meter cellar is becoming the latest cause of tension between Fatah and Hamas.

The PA security forces said on Sunday they have discovered a secret Hamas prison in the village of Urif, 13km south of Nablus.

The prison, as this video suggests, consists of a cell, a small bathroom and a room.

Some 10 metres away from the prison, a weapon cache was revealed in what looked like a cesspit, Jibreen al-Bakri, the governor of Nablus, said. There, suits for Hamas’ military wing of al-Qassam Brigades were found along with al-Qassam flags, computers, communication devices, night vision binoculars and even gas grenades, AlBakri said.

This discovery raised many concerns within Fatah, as it revived fears of repeating the Gaza scenario of 2006.
Ahmad Assaf, a Fatah spokesperson, said Hamas was trying to establish its own underground entities as part of efforts to overthrow the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Hamas didn’t take long to deny the whole claim.

Senior Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil accused the PA of lies and fabrications. He said the PA aims at justifying its recent arrest campaign that targeted tens of Hamas members and supporters in the occupied West Bank.

Another senior member of Hamas, Saleh Aruri, negated the PA claim of a Hamas prison in the West Bank. From Damascus, he issued a statement in which he also said that it’s only normal for a resistance movement to have underground bunkers, especially when it’s targeted by the occupation.

As if the drift between the largest two Palestinian parties needed to be widened, there goes another punch to reconciliation – or the little remaining hope to achieve it any time soon.

Nowadays, when Palestinians hear of reconciliation, it’s often used in the context of who is impeding it. Besides, the word reconciliation seems to be used for public consumption, just like the national project and public interest – whatever those may mean.

Hamas is talking of reconciliation while facing a leadership crisis, and a more obvious divide between those who represent it inside the occupied Palestinian territory and those in exile.

Fatah is also talking of reconciliation while trying to confront Hamas in the West Bank and struggling to manage the divide resulting from some of its circle's position regarding Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

In the street, people are talking of a different reconciliation: they are talking of the reconciliation that will unite them against the Israeli occupation. However, they too are busy, trying to make ends meet.

Many suggest that Fatah and Hamas both seem to have lost the initiative and direction, as they became prisoners to international and regional developments.

Fatah is waiting for the US elections, said Mahdi AbdulHadi of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs. They are waiting to see which direction the peace process will go, he said. While Hamas is waiting to see who’ll be leading the political Islam wave in the region, be it Tehran, Mecca, Istanbul or Cairo, said AbdulHadi.

However, on the ground, those affected by the division can’t afford to wait. The families of those detained in PA and Hamas prisons are only an example. According to AlHaq Human Rights organisation, almost 100 of Hamas supporters are held in PA prisons in the West Bank, and a couple dozen of Fatah supporters remain in Hamas prisons in the besieged Gaza strip.

There seems to be no worse time for Palestinians to remain divided – the Israeli occupation is tightening its grip on the West Bank and cementing its siege on the Gaza strip, the regional developments are taking the focus away from the Palestinian cause and the average Palestinian is consumed by the day-to-day struggle to remain on the land.

To state the obvious, it seems that ending the division between Fatah and Hamas needs more than five agreements and 10 initiatives – maybe a bit more time, less external meddling, a sincere will, some vision and paying more attention to the street beat?